Meant To Be

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As one of those getting-rarer people who married their high-school sweetheart, people sometimes ask me if I knew he was “the one”.

Uh, no.  I met and started dating Arthur when I was 15.  That was entirely too young to seriously think of marriage.  I was a lot more worried about getting to a final round in speech team competition and trying to control the frizz of naturally curly hair than finding a marriage partner.

More than a few people who knew us back then, however, have told us that they knew we were going to end up together.  One of the speech coaches, also the yearbook adviser, put this photo/caption in the yearbook from my freshman year of high school:

Altered Speech Photo

This is at a speech team party, during an improv game.  My glasses and the frizz are, uh, fierce.  Please excuse my editing skills!

Now, around 21 years after our first meeting, it’s an interesting artifact to pull out every now and again :).

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please check out Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

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A Little Overwhelmed

Christmas was a study in contrasts.  The day itself was quite lovely, restful, and calm.  Spending the day at home with my parents, we opened presents.  We relaxed.  I cooked a beef tenderloin and made a chocolate cheesecake that actually turned out beautifully.

The next day, I had plans to go to Arthur’s family in the morning (they live about an hour away from us) so the girls could play with their cousins, then Arthur would join us in the evening after work for gift exchange and time with family.  I arrived at the house, got the girls ushered in, and started talking with the adults.

Arthur’s middle sister MC recently got engaged with a wedding scheduled for the summer.  I knew MC was – naturally – excited about the wedding.  To make conversation, I asked her how things were going and about plans, etc.

I did not expect to be asked to be a bridesmaid.  MC and I have had some conflicts on and off over the last year or two, and I figured that she’d have friends and Arthur’s two other sisters to round out the bridal party.  MC asked if I would sing and if E would be a flower girl.  I told her yes, of course, and then asked if she had picked bridesmaids’ dresses and such.

Socially awkward introverts’ worst nightmare ensued: a smooth sailing, seemingly shallow conversation suddenly pitched into unexpectedly deep waters.  “Well,” MC told me, “SC [Arthur’s oldest sister] is my maid of honor, LC [Arthur’s youngest sister] is going to be a bridesmaid, my friend V, and, well, F.”

F, for the record, is married to Arthur’s brother D, so an in-law like me.  I sucked in a deep breath and tried not to react.  While I hadn’t been expecting to be asked to be a bridesmaid, I also hadn’t expected to be the only female in my generation to be left out of the wedding party.  I smiled, tried to be polite, and left the room a few minutes later with the baby to calm down.

MC followed me.  “Look,” she said, “I hope you’re not too upset about the bridesmaid thing.  I didn’t ask F just because she’s a sister-in-law.”

Ouch.

I’ve been with Arthur for around 20 years at this point, engaged or married for 15 of those years.  I’ve attended MC’s band concerts, events, graduations, and sent things to her at college.  It’s true that we’ve had a few moments in the last couple years – which I fully acknowledge to be partly on me – but to be told, essentially, “well, F is a friend and you…are just my sister in law” felt absolutely devastating.

It’s not even so much not being a bridesmaid.  It’s being close enough to hear all the inside jokes and far enough away to be left out of them.  It’s being the only female of my generation in the family photos that will be dressed differently and obviously not part of the group.  It’s that in Arthur’s family culture, this is a huge, huge slap in the face.

I spent the day trying not to cry.  When Arthur arrived, however, I lost it.  Seven hours of sitting on strong feelings was too much.  Instead of doing what I had planned, which was keeping things quiet and working it out later, I just felt the sobs pouring out of me and I could not bear to cry in front of everyone.  I ran out of the house and drove home, leaving Arthur and the girls to do the gift exchange and come home later.

Sh*t ensued.

It came out that at least three people had known about MC’s plans and had advised her that she would hurt me by making those choices.  Everyone is still insisting that MC didn’t mean to hurt me, that she’s stubborn and not as emotionally aware, but I’m having a hard time believing it.  I mean, MC is absolutely entitled to have whoever she wants in her wedding party, but she needs to own her decisions and not hide behind “oh, I asked you to sing and I never thought you’d be hurt”.

At this point, I’m just trying to take a step back and calm down a little.  There’s a lot of pressure on me to forgive, reconcile, and sing.  Truthfully, while that might be possible eventually, it’s hard to do when it’s all so fresh.

We closed on the house yesterday.  And it is glorious.  I am so, so excited about starting to paint and moving in.  A little overwhelmed, too, honestly.  To add to all of this, a driver rear-ended us yesterday as well, so creating another task.

So that’s how 2017 ended and 2018 is starting.  Lots of good, but plenty of delicate, difficult circumstances thrown in.

Eleven Years In…He’s Still Wonderful

Our eleven year wedding anniversary was on Saturday.  We went out on Thursday evening (since I had to work on Saturday) and Arthur brought me a card and small bouquet of flowers.  Sunday, Arthur got me up from my nap with the following words: “Hey, don’t freak out, but…”

Uh-oh.

“I think I saw a mouse.”

Management followed through superbly after I notified them and the exterminator came out yesterday.  He placed a few glue traps and a childproof box of mouse poison.  I winced.  “So…if the mouse gets poisoned…I might have to pick it up?”

“Yeah,” he said, “or it might crawl outside to die.  If it gets stuck in a glue trap, you’ll be able to see it, but you’ll just throw out the whole thing.”

I stared at him.  As much as I sometimes complain about it, I adult reasonably successfully most days.  I’ve dealt with job losses, infertility, IVF, miscarriages, and very premature birth.  I have a job with a high degree of responsibility.  I can balance my checkbook and figure out large swaths of paperwork.

Dead mice, though?  No way.

Arthur shook his head when I told him when he came home for lunch that I was not touching this one.  “But all you do is sweep it into the dustpan with the broom and get rid of it,” he said.

“Nope.  Not happening.”

“You weren’t this upset on Sunday.  You once had a live mouse in your hair during family reunion and didn’t start screaming because you didn’t want to cause a panic.”

“Live mice don’t ick me out as much as dead ones.  It’s not rational.  But I don’t want it living in our house, either.  So you’re just going to have to deal with it.  If I find it, you’ll probably hear the shrieks all the way over at work.”

Arthur was putting on his shoes to go back to work when we both heard it: a loud squeaking and rustling from the kitchen.  “I’m not going in there,” I announced.  “You go look.”

Arthur came back.  “It’s under the fridge, I think.  I’ll deal with it when I get home.”

I took the easy way out and called maintenance, who came, moved the fridge, and informed me the mouse had escaped.  I texted Arthur the news.  He texted back that he agreed “Mouse Hunt” would be a good movie to watch soon.

For our anniversary, I’d been working on a sweet, romantic sort of post about the reading we had done at our wedding called “The Blessing of the Hands”.  There are a few versions out there, but it talks about how these are the hands that will hold you in sickness and through trials and in the good times.  I had been thinking along the lines of how his were the hands that moved our whole apartment by himself and held mine during a long hospital stay and when we were pretty sure we’d never have a baby and so on and so forth.

That’s all true, but I have a very different, way less dramatic or romantic or sweet line to add now: “These are the hands that will check the traps and clean up the dead mice you hate so much.”

Or maybe not so much less romantic…after all, eleven years, and we’re still happily putting up with each other’s quirks and foibles.  We’re laughing and joking together, working as a team.

And really, what else could be better?

The Quiet Anniversary

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A couple of weeks after Arthur and I got married, in the let-down phase after all the excitement of the wedding, I wondered what we would be like in 10 years. It seemed like an impossibly long time for a 22 year old, almost half my life to that point. Reality was already seeping in. We had no jobs, the barest minimum catastrophic coverage health insurance, almost no money, brand-new college degrees and had no clue how to make this work.

One small step at a time, we built our lives together. Moving into our first apartment, taking jobs to pay the bills, buying our first furniture, figuring out how to run a household, fighting over who was hogging the covers. The long walks, the sweet moments of watching the sun set over the lake or going wine tasting at vineyards an hour or two away. Going to Europe, my graduation from nursing school. The dark times, losing hard fought-for pregnancies, enduring round after round of tests, staring at the bank book getting ready for the next cycle or after lost jobs.

He is the man who held my hand at my least lovely, through eight long weeks in the hospital, who steadfastly refused to let go.

More than our actual ten year anniversary on June 25, this unsung anniversary of doubt is when I know we have accomplished something special.

Wedding

Wedding – yep, those are limes in my bouquet!

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The most current (decent looking) photo I have of us

This post is part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to see other posts or get in on the action, visit Mel over at Stirrup Queens

The Plain Gold Ring

When I was in my first semester of nursing school, by the time we had reached a mere four weeks into the semester, I was completely stressed out.  I suppose the expression of my stress could have focused on the several hundred pages a week of technical medical reading I had to do, or the fact that I typically had 2-3 tests every week to study for.  My care plans usually ran about 20 to 50 pages in length.  Instead, the stress found an outlet in the oddest of places: the dress code.

One of the rules was that we could wear a single wedding band if we were married, but it could not have any milling, designs, or stones in it.  This makes sense.  Bacteria can hide in the milling or the settings, and a stone set in a pronged setting can rip gloves or tear fragile skin if you’re not careful.  However, I had worn a ring for around seven years at that point.  Both my engagement ring and my wedding band had stones set in them, so I had taken them off and they had been carefully placed in my jewelry box.

“My finger feels naked,” I wailed to Arthur one evening when the stress finally began to bubble over.  “I feel like I’m losing some part of my identity.”  He held me as I sat and sobbed for awhile.

A few days later, when Arthur got home from work, instead of coming over and giving me a kiss as usual, he came over and got down on one knee.  He pulled out a box.  With a huge grin, he said “Will you stay married to me?”

“What?  Of course,” I responded.  With a flourish, he opened the box and pulled out a simple, plain, narrow gold band.  Arthur placed it on my finger.  It fit perfectly.

“Now your finger doesn’t have to feel naked,” he said, smiling.  “This one meets the dress code, right?”

“It does,” I said.  “I know we don’t have any money with me being in school, though.  Where did you find it?”

“On sale,” he replied.  “It was only about $30, and I thought for a decent 10 karat gold band it was worth it.”  Ever since I had made the comment, he had looked for something within our very limited budget that would work.

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The ring

When infertility hit us, I mentioned several times to Arthur that I thought he should find someone who could give him children and leave me.  I’ve known since Arthur and I started dating over fifteen years ago that he wanted children very, very much.  It wasn’t a healthy response, but it was all I could think of.  How could he want to stay with me when it was a distinct possibility that I might not be able to give him those children?

Arthur, to his great credit, told me that was crazy.  “I married you for lots of things other than your ability to give me children,” he said.  He has had to repeat this several times over the course of our struggles, and probably will have to a few more times.

Recently, we attended a wedding.  As the bride and groom began to recite those age-old vows to each other, I felt myself tearing up.  “For better or worse…for richer or for poorer…in sickness and in health…until death do us part…this is my solemn vow.”  When Arthur and I had gotten married eight years earlier, I had said those vows to him and he to me.  While I had recognized at the time this was a big commitment, I had not really understood what they meant.

Arthur reached over and squeezed my hand.  I knew he was thinking exactly what I was thinking.  That we had made those vows on our wedding day, not necessarily knowing the depth of what they would mean for us.  Now, though, as the bride and groom pledged their love and devotion, holding Arthur’s hand, we silently remembered, affirming our commitment anew with the knowledge and sorrow and happiness we had known in the past eight years deepening and strengthening the bond.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t still have bad days where I wonder why Arthur stays married to me.  It doesn’t mean we don’t have times where we’re both exasperated or angry with each other.  It just means we do the best we can.

That simple ring still graces my hand today.  It’s the ring I wear every day.  Oh, I still have my ‘real’ engagement and wedding bands that I’ll wear every once in a while for fancy occasions, but the plain band means more to me than just about anything I have.  That simple ring was given not on a grand moment or with hope.  It wasn’t at our wedding where we were both just excited to get married and hopeful for our future.  It wasn’t at our engagement when we had what felt like unlimited life and potential ahead of us.  It was given during a tough time, a sign of love and devotion even when I wasn’t at my best.   Today, that ring means more than any of my others.